The main obstacle to an HIV cure is the transcriptionally inert proviruses that persist in resting CD4 T cells and other reservoirs. None of the current approaches has significantly reduced the size of the viral reservoir. Hence, alternative approaches, such as permanent blocking of viral transcription, to achieve a sustained remission, need urgent attention. To identify cellular factors that may be important for this approach, we sought for host targets that when altered could block HIV transcription and reactivation. Here, we identified splicing factor 3B subunit 1 (SF3B1) as a critical HIV dependency factor required for viral replication. SF3B1 is a splicing factor involved in directing chromatin and nascent gene transcripts to appropriate splice sites. Inhibitors of SF3B1 are currently in development for cancer and have been found to be nontoxic to normal cells compared to malignant cells. Knockdown of SF3B1 abrogated HIV replication in all cell types tested. SF3B1 interacted with viral protein Tat in vitro and in vivo. Genetic or pharmacologic inhibition of SF3B1 prevented Tat-mediated HIV transcription and RNA polymerase II association with the HIV promoter. In addition, an inhibitor of SF3B1 prevented HIV reactivation from latency irrespective of the latency-reversing agent used. The data show that SF3B1 is involved in viral transcription and reactivation from latency and may serve as a therapeutic target in the HIV cure efforts. IMPORTANCE The reason why HIV cannot be cured by current therapy is because of viral persistence in resting T cells. One approach to permanent HIV remission that has received less attention is the so-called “block and lock” approach. The idea behind this approach is that the virus could be permanently disabled in patients if viral genome or surrounding chromatin could be altered to silence the virus, thus enabling patients to stop therapy. In this work, we have identified splicing factor 3B subunit 1 (SF3B1) as a potential target for this approach. SF3B1 interacts with the viral protein Tat, which is critical for viral transcription. Inhibition of SF3B1 prevents HIV transcription and reactivation from latency. Since there are preclinical inhibitors for this protein, our findings could pave the way to silence HIV transcription, potentially leading to prolonged or permanent remission.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere01423-18
Issue number6
StatePublished - Nov 1 2018


  • Block and lock
  • HIV cure
  • HIV transcription
  • Human immunodeficiency virus
  • Latency
  • Reactivation


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